Posted on August 30, 2020
Alberto Vargas, the master of sexy and elegant pin ups
Joaquin Alberto Vargas y Chávez was born on 9th February 1896 in Arequipa, Peru, and was considered as one of the irst and most famous pin-up artists. Son of the popular Peruvian photographer Max T. Vargas, Alberto Vargas moved to the United States in 1916 after studying art in Europe, Zurich, and Geneva prior to World War I. While he was in Europe he came upon the French magazine La Vie Parisienne, with a cover by Raphael Kirchner, which he said was a great influence on his work. In his early career in New York he worked as an artist for the Ziegfeld Follies and for many Hollywood studios. Ziegfeld hung his painting of Olive Thomas at the theater, and she was thought of as one of the earliest Vargas Girls. Vargas’ most famous piece of film work was for the poster of the 1933 film The Sin of Nora Moran, which shows a near-naked Zita Johann in a pose of desperation. He became very popular in the 1940s as the creator of iconic World War-II era pin-ups for Esquire magazine known as “Vargas Girls”. Hugh Hefner, the founder Playboy magazine, in 1954 began to use his work. Vargas, over the next 16 years, produced 152 paintings for Playboy. His career flourished and he had major exhibitions of his work all over the world. The publication of his autobiography in 1978 renewed interest in his work and brought him partially out of his self-imposed retirement to do a few works, such as album covers for The Cars (Candy-O, 1979) and Bernadette Peters (Bernardette Peters, 1980; Now Playing, 1981). He died of a stroke on 30 December 1982, at the age of 86. Many of Vargas’ works from his period with Esquire are now held by the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas. Vargas works were typically a combination of watercolor and airbrush. Despite always using figure models, he often portrayed elegantly dressed, semi-nude to nude women of idealized proportions. Notable women painted by Vargas include Olive Thomas, Billie Burke, Nita Naldi, Marilyn Miller, Paulette Goddard, Bernadette Peters, Irish McCalla, Ruth Etting and Candy Moore from The Cars’ Candy-O album.